Life and death on the kickball field

With the killer instinct of a red-tailed hawk, I surveyed the situation and took my place in the kicker's box, eager to punish the hell out of a rubber ball that would dribble toward me at approximately 2.234 mph.

It's come to this, folks. Life has degenerated to a depressing stream of deadlines, bills, taxes, $4.26-per-gallon gas and Facebook status updates. The time has come when victory on the kickball field is the highlight of my year. Maybe my life.

It was a battle of local media. The Trib and all the television stations would play a round-robin tournament to declare the Rogue Valley's top media kickball champion for charity.

To understand the dynamic between the local media outlets is to understand that there really isn't a dynamic. The days of wicked competition between newspaper and television stations and television station versus television station is basically over. At this point, an Old Media provider is too consumed with scraping the barrel of a nosediving advertising base in an effort to stave off yet another disastrous revenue quarter to engage in petty one-upping tactics in the field.

On assignment, there's a general sense that we're all locked in a life-and-death battle against New Media together, so we might as well just get along. Morbid humor permeates any discussion between reporters. I've learned to enjoy the TV people for their enthusiasm and strict adherence to fashion while on assignment. It's an impressive sight to watch a TV reporter in designer high heels struggle a mile up a steep, gravel road on the way to a forest fire in the middle of August.

With that in mind, this Saturday kickball tournament harked back to the days when Old Media titans would battle it out in the streets for access to news that mattered to a public that would be willing to read or watch it. You remember those days? Before Angry Birds, meaningless Facebook status updates and TMZ? Yeah, I don't either.

On this day, it really was Us versus channels 5, 10 and 12.

Hell, we even had shirts made. Royal-blue ones with an insanely large "MT" stamped on the front. They would be our uniform, and those colors wouldn't run.

The teams joined for a quick rules meeting before the tournament. Everyone put on a happy-to-be-here face, but that was transparent crap. Each team wanted to win. There was a whiff of tension in the air.

We took on Channel 5 in the first game. The Trib squad comprised mostly sports dudes, a Tempo chick, a few copy-desk jockeys and me. We didn't look very imposing compared with any other teams.

However, we had a secret weapon. His name is Myles Murphy. Now, Myles might not look like much — tall, stringy legs with knobby knees, grey Gandalf beard pouring down to his collarbones — but let me tell you, he's the Ricky Henderson of kickball. In fact, I think he actually spoke of himself in the third person at one point during the first game.

Our newsroom is an active group, especially the sports guys. But Myles was the spark plug. He kicked lead-off and served as the table setter throughout the match. It was a sight to behold, watching Myles directionally kick to soft spots in the defense and stretch singles to doubles and doubles into triples.

We jumped out to an early lead against 5 and never gave it up. To their credit, after letting up a stream of runs in the first inning, 5 tightened its defense, and runs became harder to come by as the game wore on.

Afterward, we joined Channel 12 on the field of battle to determine the tournament winner. They had pulled out a tight one against 10 to earn the spot in the winner's bracket.

Their team leader conferred with our coach and sports editor Tim Trower for a pregame meeting. Trower is as laid-back a dude as you'll ever meet. He rocks blue jeans and tennis shoes every day like a champ. The 12 guy flashed a set of eye-gouging pink socks pulled knee-high. I noticed that 12 featured a lot of unself-conscious pink in its uniforms.

I knew then that this team was dangerous. You don't flash pink like that unless you can handle yourself in a fight.

I was surprised by 12's early strategy. The players attempted to work us over with a series of bunts in an attempt to pile on base runners. It didn't work because we adjusted to fend them off with force outs at third.

Bunting in kickball? Really? If I had bunted in a kickball game in middle school, Brian Varda, Bobby Remlinger and the Perrillo brothers would've stomped me into a mud hole when I returned to the bench. And I would have deserved it.

The contest was evenly matched from the beginning. It was clear that one mistake would determine the game. We manufactured an early run through tough base running and a timely kick. It seemed it would be enough until one of their big boppers got hold of one and sent it deep into left center. Then we lost Myles to injury, and our heart was taken away just like that. They clung to their lead as we remained frustrated the rest of the day.

We took the loss but held our heads high. I would like to take the time to congratulate Channel 12 on its win, but I also would like to offer up a challenge.

Let's meet again for a rematch, Channel 12. You can bring your pink socks and bunting, and we'll bring a rested and healthy Myles Murphy and see who comes out on top in a best two out of three.

See you in the field.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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